Some can argue that San Diego Comic-Con is the house that Marvel built. The studio showed that the fan event could be a major springboard for geek properties, and every year since Iron Man debuted its first footage at the convention, the annual event has grown at an astonishing rate. While other studios have tried to emulate Marvel’s success, the studio has the reputation for knowing that Comic-Con isn’t just where you drop some footage and have a panel; it’s where you directly appeal to the fans and make them feel good about being fans.
However, the studio may be absent from Comic-Con 2015. In a Facebook Q&A with James Gunn [via MCU Exchange], the director was asked if he would be attending this year, and he replied, “I’m not sure. Marvel isn’t going so I’m not sure I will either.” When pressed on whether or not he was misleading people, Gunn responded on Twitter:
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 7, 2015
Marvel leaving Comic-Con would mark the end of an era, but it’s not an unexpected conclusion. Marvel no longer needs Comic-Con. We got a glimpse of that last year when fans—some of whom had waited in line for over a day just for the Marvel panel—were denied a second viewing of the first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron. I’ve been in that room in the past, and the studio didn’t shy away from showing their big trailers more than once. I also heard that they also wanted to end the presentation by announcing Joaquin Phoenix for Doctor Strange, but they couldn’t get the contract done in time, so the panel ended with a whimper.
The studio’s departure marks an ongoing transformation for Comic-Con. Once studios realized that a big showing at Comic-Con doesn’t translate to massive box office, they started to back away. Disney has pretty much left entirely since they have their own convention, D23 (since Disney owns Marvel, that’s where the superhero studio might make a presentation), and other studios are skittish about what they’ll bring. The return on investment for movies is imperceptible, but the Con now has value as a showplace for television. That’s where Comic-Con has been going for years, and as the Golden Age of Television continues to prosper, shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones will keep packing the convention. It’s possible that Gunn was only referring to Marvel movies, and the studio will show up to push their upcoming Netflix titles and possibly the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if the show gets renewed.
People may be bummed that Marvel movies won’t show up, but Comic-Con will still sell every single badge.